RICHMOND, Va. -- The Redskins said, and still say, that if Florida State’s Brandon Jenkins had stayed healthy last season, he would have been drafted much higher than the fifth round. He recorded 22.5 sacks in college, including 13.5 as a sophomore in 2010 when he played at a lighter weight.
What he’s learning: What moves work. Jenkins showed a variety of moves in college and has done the same in training camp. Not all moves succeed, however, as he’s discovered -- and some might work against the third-team tackle, but not the starter. It’s about timing and where to place his hands. When working against the starting line recently, he started a spin move too early and a little too upright, which allowed tackle Tyler Polumbus to easily react and block his move. In other practices, Jenkins has timed it up well, closing the gap between he and the tackle, dipping his right shoulder into the outside shoulder of the tackle and curling back inside for pressure. Other times instead of spinning on a direct path he’d round off a bit too much and lose ground. Or you could see him thinking about a move and cutting inside too early, without as much initial burst, and get denied. There’s a natural feel to his game. There’s also a natural rust to his game after suffering a season-ending Lisfranc injury to his left foot in the 2012 season opener, which is why Jenkins said he’s still “getting in a groove.” He worked out with former FSU teammates Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine in the offseason, focusing on hand and agility drills.
Jenkins also is getting used to adjusting to the snap counts. In the preseason opener he jumped early on a play because of a hard count. He still managed to get wide on the tackle, but it served as a reminder. He jumped early in practice this week thanks to a hard count.
“The snap count is a lot harder,” he said. “You have to be disciplined if you’re trying to jump the snap. The quarterbacks will try to trip you up; that’s one thing that’s real big. It’s all about the takeoffs. If you get a good takeoff then good things will happen from there.”
But it shouldn’t be about the snap count.
"You’ve got to see the ball," said linebackers coach Bob Slowik. “If you anticipate too much he’ll be offsides about eight times .... He has a great get-off and he was really instinctive and natural in his rush. He’s trying to find out what works the best against big, long, athletic tackles.”
What needs to be seen: The ability to be an all-around linebacker. That means learning to drop into coverage, but don’t expect to see that a lot (even though he did do it against Tennessee last week at least once). While Jenkins dropped once in a while at Florida State, it’s much different now. It’s not a matter of his athleticism, it’s about knowing where to drop against different looks. Jenkins said he needs to be able to read the quarterback’s eyes better and also must get to his spot with urgency.
“You can drop to your spot and the quarterback already throws the ball at you,” Jenkins said. “It’s real quick. You have to be detail-oriented.”
It’s a lot to absorb.
"He’s natural at it, but it’s the volume of the defense he’s trying to grasp," Slowik said, “and then to go out and execute those calls at full speed with confidence and reacting to the offense at the same time.
“If he tries to grasp the whole package then it will slow down his pass rushes. That’s what we’re working on the most.”
What stands out: His burst. Jenkins must refine his game to become a quality pass-rusher, but he shows flashes most days of his ability. Many others have done the same in the past. The trick is to develop that talent and that’s what Jenkins must do. Jenkins, who weighed 270 pounds as a junior, now weighs 250. At 270, he looked a little less fluid and not as quick. At 250, which is around what he weighed as a sophomore, the fluidity has returned. He’s not always successful, but a lot of that stems from technique and timing.
“He has that short area quickness,” Slowik said. “Very quick off the ball. He might not be the fastest 40-yard time, but he’s very good in 10 yards and very good in change of direction.”
Projection: He should make the roster based on his potential and also on the fact that another reserve outside linebacker, Rob Jackson, will be suspended for the first four games. They need depth here early and also have veteran Darryl Tapp as a backup. But Jenkins also has worked with the first unit in nickel situations during the first preseason game as well as in practice. He would be used the great majority of the time as a situational rusher.